Rebecca Sullivan and Joseph Engstrom at Town Bike Pitsop, Redfern. Photo: Fiona Morris
Many factors dictate a surburb's 'hip' factor and its property potential.
It's intangible, impossible to nail down, a social tag that can never be spoken for fear it will be considered passe before its single syllable escapes your mouth - what is "hip"?
To some, it's milk crates in cafes. To others it's a GoGet car on every corner, or a small bar with no name, or it's workers cycling into their warehouse office.
But, whatever your definition of hip, the right combination can be an indicator of a suburb with potential. Two decades ago, agents promoting property saw the benefits of "cafe culture", which still attracts buyers today. But a social researcher, Roberta Ryan, from the planning firm Urbis, puts price growth in two emerging suburbs - Redfern in Sydney and Collingwood in Melbourne - to something other than simply proximity to the centre of the city.
"Suburbs have a magic moment," she says. "It's a moment where you've got a diverse demographic and a diversity of built form, which attracts a range of lower-income people and creative industries in affordable shop fronts.
"It's part of the cycle that suburbs go through and there is a moment where it's hip and then it starts to move away from being affordable."
Redfern's median house price a decade ago was $451,000 and now it's $830,000, a rise of 84 per cent, while Collingwood's was $322,750, jumping by 116 per cent to $698,000.
Drawing from the latest census, Ryan says suburbs are more likely to be considered cool if they have a high proportion of people aged 20-39 who are single, tertiary-educated atheists living in group households without cars. Redfern and Collingwood have all that - but that's not the whole picture. "Diversity is key to hip," she says.
Ryan also considered suburbs that have been hip for so long that they've now joined the million-dollar club.
"Take Balmain, for example: it has a reasonably high proportion of public housing tenants as well as having some of the most prestigious real estate in Sydney," she says. "It's also diverse in its voting patterns ... it's a seat that changes a lot."
There is certainly an array of housing options in Balmain. At the entry level, APM puts the median price of a one-bedroom apartment at $425,000. At the other end of the spectrum, Balmain's top sale was $8 million in 2006.
Things such as public housing, a range of ages and numerous dwelling types give a suburb its character. Ryan says public housing can make suburbs more interesting.
PEOPLE MAKE THE PLACE
A Darlington resident and the bass guitarist for Sydney band Jinja Safari, Joe Engstrom, 23, (pictured on cover), says for him it's all about the people who share your suburb.
"Everything else good about a suburb comes from that," he says. "You can have all the trendy places in the world but at the end of the day it's the people that make a suburb."
According to census data, Darlington has one of the highest percentages of group households in Australia, with 40 per cent of residents aged 20-29.
The senior economist at Australian Property Monitors, Dr Andrew Wilson, says this could be an indication of a suburb on the up.
"Lower-value areas attract younger people who are not able to buy so they get into the buying queue through renting," he says.
Wilson says there is a continuum as new-age amenities pop up to service the rental community, making the area more attractive for owner-occupiers.
People become alert to the benefits of the area and start to bid up the prices, with owner-occupiers competing to be part of the "overall lifestyle choice of the community".
However, rising prices eventually lead to a suburb losing its cool. "They turn into prestige suburbs," Wilson says.
Paddington has gone down this path, as has Annandale, and Wilson says places such as Balmain "are starting to move beyond cool". The owner of the new Town Bike Pitstop on Abercrombie Street, Grahame Rowe, has been watching the Redfern/Darlington area develop since he bought a corner shop and residence for $662,500 in 2004.
At this time the Aboriginal-managed housing area on the western border of Redfern, known colloquially as The Block, dominated the area.
"It was quite uncomfortable to live around here because there was lots of squabbling in the street, violence and drug deals and cars being broken into, just quite a dangerous area," Rowe says.
"Now the block has gone quiet and a lot of properties have gone from being houses that have been rented by students to owner-occupied homes. This, of course, has changed the demographic and the balance of the area."
This young demographic of renters and owner-occupiers is what makes places such as Redfern, Darlington, Chippendale, Erskineville and Camperdown statistically cool. However, Ryan points out that "suburbs can be hip in different ways".
On Sydney's northern beaches, places such as Avalon have developed a reputation for their boutique retail options. Nina Sokolov from LJ Hooker Avalon says that because of this, "we're now seeing a lot of young couples with children and people from the eastern suburbs moving here".
Even though it's a beach suburb, it has a village feel, with upmarket boutiques, name cafes and organic food outlets catering for the barefoot bohemians.
In Sydney's south-west, Cabramatta is making a name for itself as Sydney's Asian food mecca to the point that it's now on the itinerary of Maeve O'Meara's Gourmet Safaris.
Property-wise, Cabramatta is still particularly affordable and, according to APM data, it's still possible to snag a two-bedroom apartment for $250,000 or a three-bedroom house for $445,000.
If it's the small-bar scene you're after, Neutral Bay on Sydney's lower north shore is being touted as the next Surry Hills. Stewart Gordon of Belle Property Neutral Bay says: "With all the restaurants and the emerging wine bar scene, it's mainly young professional couples buying in the area, as well as older couples whose kids have left home."
Gordon says Neutral Bay is not only "edgier" than Mosman, it's also much more affordable. But you may have to be quick - the 12-month median price for apartments in Neutral Bay is $620,000, up from $598,500 the year before.
- Bike racks and tracks.
- Saturday markets.
- Small bars/renovated pubs.
- Art space (gallery, museum, independent cinema).
- Independent wine store.
- Independent fashion stores.
- Communal gardens.
- Cheap eats.
- Car-share scheme.
- A spot on the Sydney Morning Herald Good Cafe Guide 2012.